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June 2, 2018

Maria Sharapova

Paris, France

M. SHARAPOVA/Ka. Pliskova

6-2, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.

Q. Today you were effective on her serve, neutralized her biggest weapon. You were pretty much in control the whole match. What was the game plan, and how happy are you with the results?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, the return, as I said in my previous press conference, it was a big part of getting in the point, and, you know, not giving her too many free points and giving her confidence from the baseline after that.

So I thought I did a really good job of, you know, being aggressive on the return, giving her different looks on the return.

And, yeah, I was solid. I played smart. I think I did the right things, I was aggressive on the break points, I went for it. I took the match rather than her giving it to me.

Q. You were laughing with your team after that match point. Why were you laughing like that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know if I was laughing. I think I was happy and smiling. It's always, you know, I guess these are the types of occasions where you want to play really good, solid tennis against a top-10 player that's been playing extremely well.

You know, when you're able to deliver that on a Grand Slam stage, I think it makes it extra special.

Q. It's the first time you have reached the fourth round for about three years, I think. So do you feel elated that you're back at this level now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Of course. I think when you're progressing throughout a Grand Slam, as I said, you come across different challenges within a tournament like this, and I think that Roland Garros presents maybe more challenges than others with the weather, with the schedule. You just have to come forward and face it.

So I think I improved quite a lot in this match from my first two rounds. I had to. I didn't really have a choice against a player like her.

So, yeah, of course I'm pleased to be in the next one.

Q. Your autobiography is called "Unstoppable." You have been unstoppable so far this week and you have also won here previously twice as champion. Could you become unstoppable again this year at Roland Garros?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Look, I think with every single match, as I just said, you try to improve and the competition only gets tougher. Yeah, that's the way I look at every single tournament.

Q. You could possibly play either Serena or Julia Goerges. Can I ask you about Serena first, what the possibility of a matchup like that at this stage in both of your careers would mean to you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think any time you play against Serena you know what you're up against. You know the challenge that is upon you. You know, despite the record that I have against her, I always look forward to coming out on the court and competing against the best player. I will look forward to doing that if she wins this one.

Q. You always look like you're motivated when you play tennis. Always on fire out there. How much over the years has the internal flame fluctuated for you, if at all? Are we seeing what's really happening inside when we watch you being so aggressive?

Q. Has there been any change?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think -- I really don't know how to do it at 60, 70%. I really -- it's not, never been my style, in a sense. I think that's, you know, that stubbornness maybe is great, but it's also times you need to calm down a bit.

But even in training and, you know, I know -- I have only known one way and it's gotten me in a position where I am today. I always look back, you have to use your experience, you have to know kind of what's helped you in the past. Going 60, 70% hasn't done well for me.

Yeah, of course I want to bring that fire. That's my game. That's kind of the aggressive aspect of it, the focused, not giving up, yeah.

Q. A couple weeks ago or so about at the time you had a hit with Rafa, I think it was a tweet where you said Rafa and GOAT. Could you take a moment as an elite athlete say what's so incredible for this guy going for his 11th? Do you feel he's the greatest of all time?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it's pretty remarkable what he's done in his career. I think when you get to a certain point, you know, those numbers, I mean, there are a lot of people that can be considered greatest of all time, right?

I don't know if, when you're that successful, if it's even fair to measure them in numbers, because you don't want to take anything away from somebody else that's achieved maybe just as much or maybe even more or a little bit less.

Yeah, I have a lot of admiration for him. I have always -- I have loved the spirit that he carries on with, you know, the focus. You know, it goes back to kind of the fire question. I think he only knows how to go at 100%. If you look at the practice schedule, I mean, he's out there for -- he won two events, and in Rome, he's practicing for three hours a day, he knows that that's what works for him and he's going to deliver that no matter his age, no matter the injuries, he shows up.

That's incredibly admirable, because the older you get in this sport, the more physical it is, tougher it is on the body. We know that.

So, yeah, of course I admire not just him but there are many players that I admire on that level.

Q. The last time you played Serena was at the 2016 Australian Open, which wound up being the last match you played for 15-month stretch. How would you sum up in a word or sentence or two everything that's happened in your life since the last time you played Serena?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, it's been a while, and I think a lot has happened in our lives for the both of us in very different ways.

But, yeah, I'm not someone, you know, I have spoken about that chapter for a long time now, and to be able to put myself back in these positions and to not shy away from these moments, to come out on center court and want the challenge of moving forward and to be able to face Serena, I think that speaks for itself.

I don't think I need to elaborate any more on that.

Q. How early on a match day or in the course of a match do you know you're completely on and you're playing the way you want to? And in case you're not, what does it take to, you know, get you back at that level and get your game back to where you want it to be?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't like to feel too comfortable. I think there are definitely matches where you play flawless, you play great, but I have said in my career where I have come off the court and said that was perfect is just a handful of times, because there are always things that you can improve. There are always errors that kind of creep up, certain moments in a match.

You know, even today I had that long point where she made a dropshot on the run and it was a really long point, could have given me a chance to go up two break points, but it didn't. It was 30-All. I actually thought to myself, I was, like, No matter the score, I'm not going to let this point define the match.

You never know. Tennis, that's what's so interesting about this game is that every point can really put you back to reality. And that's, you know, I thrive on those situations and those moments.

So being comfortable is not -- I'm not sure too many players that can say they are constantly comfortable in this sport.

Q. Even if you just said that you don't need to elaborate much about a match between you and Serena if it would occur, well, we need something maybe. Can you tell us if that would be special in a way? And how would you consider an eventual win of yours after so many years you had lost against a player who is coming back from motherhood and she's coming back from different situation from you, but...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: So the question?

Q. So the question was what would you say in the case you win this event or special matches...
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think no matter what the occasion is, what tournament, Grand Slam, of course, it's, you know, there is more focus on a Grand Slam environment of a match. But when I'm facing against Serena or we happen to be in a similar quarter of the draw, there is much more attention toward that. That's not a secret for anyone in this room.

Like I said, no matter the record against her, I still come into this tournament and want to put myself in the position to play against the best. By coming out in the match today and beating the No. 6 in the world, I might have the opportunity to do that.

That's what I continue to do. That's why I keep on playing.

Q. You said in your book that Serena's strengths are like puzzle pieces that snap into your weaknesses. Just wondering, the way you have been playing the past few weeks, whether you feel differently about that now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think there is a lot of things in her game that she's done much better than I have. I mean, the records don't certainly elaborate on that. Numbers don't lie.

But of course, I came into Europe and Stuttgart with not a great record, not playing great tennis with a lot of injuries, and have been able to turn that around a little bit. Been able to put myself in this position of playing better tennis. That's what I continue to work for, of course. You don't put those hours on the back courts in Bradenton-fricking-Florida to -- you know what I mean -- to just show up at events like this and not bring it.

Q. Fair to say that there are few female athletes that have had as much of an impact on culture as you and Serena; fashion, style, business, et cetera. And you probably couldn't have imagined that at 17, but how much bigger does that piece of things off the court make a potential matchup?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think that everything that we have been able to achieve off the court and on the court is not -- I have never really seen, and I have talked about this a lot, but I have never really seen it as a competition. I think if you add all the things that we're able to do in our lives and the amounts of people that we're able to inspire from our stories, from our background, where we came from, kind of what we have been able to do outside the sport, in our own ways, I think is very inspiring.

I'm inspired a lot by what she's been able to do, you know, to continue to -- you know, we have known that the driving force behind this machine of business, of fashion, is performance and our achievement on the court. I think what speaks for itself is sort of that desire to keep doing that and the knowledge that we have that that is still the driving force for everything we do. Because there is nothing, ultimately nothing more inspiring than coming out on the court and whether you don't feel great or you're having the best day to have to try to win a match after all we have already achieved.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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